A prehistoric squirrel scampers across an icy landscape, desperately clinging to his beloved acorn; a creative, young robot leaves his small town, with dreams of making it as a successful inventor; a rare, blue macaw travels to the exotic land of Rio de Janeiro in search of true love and adventure–in movies an intriguing story is essential, but how do these memorable characters and scenes become so animated? From Ice Age to Rio, this spring the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators shines a light on the creative process of one of today’s biggest computer animation studios– “Ice Age” To the Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios will be on view at the Museum from March 21 through May 5, 2012.
“Ice Age” To The Digital Age looks at the creative work of Blue Sky Studios, a leader in the animation industry for over 20 years.Â Creators of such blockbuster films as the Ice Age series, Robots, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, and the recent hit Rio, the studio prides itself on technical innovation, while retaining a strong narrative heart.
Blue Sky Studio’s VP of Creative Chris Wedge, who co-founded the company in 1987, believes that the secret to the studio’s success is in its inventive process; “Every film starts with an idea, which gets refined–that really is the magic. This process is similar to architecture, in that you can only find creativity through exploration–that is the key.”
“Ice Age” to the Digital Age will guide visitors through Blue Sky’s entire process of creating computer animated films: from initial concepts, storyboards, characters and background art, to 3D and digital modeling. In addition to final movie clips on view in the Museum’s new Winsor McCay Screening Room, the exhibition will feature rarely-seen original concept drawings, character illustrations, storyboards, background paintings, sculptural models, props and digital stills.
“From overall design to modeling in clay, modeling in the computer, skin color, hair texture, suggestions on how characters might move, everything is considered,” says illustrator Peter de SÃ¨ve, the lead character designer for the Ice Age series. Starting with scriptwriting, story and character development, the process is then turned over to departments dedicated to rigging (a sort of computerized skeleton for the characters), lighting, materials (including clothes and fur), special effects, and a complex computer rendering farm using Blue Sky’s proprietary CGI Studio software, which transforms the animators’ virtual 3D world into a final motion picture. This extensive creative process has given birth to such colorful characters as Bunny, Sid the Sloth, Manny the Mammoth, Diego The Saber-toothed Tiger, Robot Rodney Copperbottom and his buddy Fender, and Blu, the Minnesota Macaw–rendered by computer, but developed through the soul of artists and storytellers. In co-founder Chris Wedge’s view, the art challenges technology and technology inspires the art. “The only limit to what can be accomplished in this world is our ability to imagine what is possible. This is the Blue Sky idea, and I promise you that it works.”